Seniors are among the most vulnerable population when it comes to financial exploitation. According to the US Justice Department, 1 in 20 older adults reported being financially abused in 2016. One estimate from the San Francisco-based financial services firm True Link Financial, seniors lose nearly $36.5 billion to financial abuse annually. This type of crime is devastating, but it continues to happen.
A large reason why the elderly are at such risk for financial exploitation is that primary caregivers and family members are often times the person taking advantage of the elderly person. There’s a couple of ways this happens. The family member or caregiver isolates the elderly person, gaining their trust, and letting them think they are the only one that cares. With that trust, they can gain power of attorney, get them to sign over documents, gain access to bank accounts, and then drain them.
Making matters worse, it is often hard to punish the people doing this. Adult Protection Services only investigates exploitation cases involving government money, such as Social Security Checks, and often times the elderly adult won’t want to get them in trouble, so they will just brush it off.
Some of the warning signs to look out for are:
- Sudden changes in financial conditions
- Unexplained ATM withdrawals
- Checks written to cash
- Unpaid bills
- Change in quality of life
- If the caregiver says the person is unavailable or not allowing access to the person
- Unexplained or unauthorized changes to wills or other estate documents
If you do notice or suspect anything, it may be time to start checking in on them more often. You may also reach out to Adult Protective Services, local law enforcement, or the senior’s financial institution. An attorney can also be useful in this type of situation. Either way, if you suspect something, it may be worth following up with to protect your loved one.